Pell Lake safe after E. coli scare

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Kevin Hoffman
Thursday, September 9, 2010
— Signs around Pell Lake warning visitors of a potential bacteria outbreak were removed Wednesday after an environmental lab discovered high E. coli readings this summer likely were false.

The Wisconsin State Lab of Hygiene in Madison found samples taken over the past two weeks were below the state’s advisory level of 235 coliform units. The north beach tested at 150 and the south beach at 170.

Bloomfield Town Chairman Ken Monroe said tests were ordered after a resident’s samples indicated levels 10 times the acceptable limit. As a precaution, signs were posted around the lake to caution anglers and swimmers.

Though it was a false alarm, Monroe said Bloomfield officials will discuss implementing E. coli testing procedures. Wisconsin doesn’t mandate E. coli testing on beaches, but counties can create ordinances requiring communities to do so.

“We won’t test anymore (right now),” Monroe said. “But when budget time comes, we will sit down and see what the total cost is for us to do this every week. We have five different lakes, so we’ll see what can work.”

Monroe said the unusually high E. coli readings from Rich Olenoski’s samples made him skeptical. Regardless, he posted signs to keep residents advised until confirmation was received from the state.

Sharon Kluender, a micro supervisor at the state lab, said retrieving samples is simple, but there is room for error.

Runoff from heavy rain or a flock of geese in the vicinity can elevate the readings, she added. The lab has a 12-minute instructional video on its website, describing specific techniques for gathering a sample without contaminating it.

“I think (Olenoski’s) concern was because there are so many geese on the beach,” Monroe said. “They have some impact into the lake water, but the DNR says they really don’t have that much as far as E. coli.”

Pell Lake Sanitary District has been conducting weekly tests of lake waters for five or six years, but that doesn’t include E. coli.

Monroe said the threat didn’t deter local residents, who continued to fish and swim in Pell Lake during that time.

Last updated: 3:01 pm Thursday, December 13, 2012

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